September 17, 2009

Friday, 9/18/09

BEQ 6:22
NYT 4:20
LAT 3:02
CS untimed
CHE (?) tba
WSJ 7:30

I just got back from a lovely dinner with a few crosswordy friends—Gary Krist, his wife Elizabeth (a recent convert to the Monday NYT puzzle!), and Marty Howard. We ate at the Park Grill in Millennium Park, beneath the Bean—great location, excellent food. I enjoyed a quartino (250 ml) of Grüner Veltliner and arrived home ready for the Friday NYT crossword.

Charles Gersch's New York Times crossword

In this 72-word themeless, the three 15-letter entries all begin with IN-, which ties things together nicely. Not that themeless crosswords need to be wrapped with a bow like that, but it's a nice touch. This is the second-to-last day of Half-Century Puzzlemaker's Week, and Gersch demonstrates that he hasn't lost a step in the 65 (!!) years he's been constructing crosswords. The Notepad tells us he "had his first crossword published on February 21, 1944, when he was 13, in the New York Herald Tribune. He made his Times debut in 1951." The Monday to Thursday puzzles this week all had clear signs that the constructors hailed from an earlier era, but this baby? It was pretty smooth.

Clues and answers of note:

  • 14A. HAPPY TALK is a ["South Pacific" song that asks "If you don't have a dream, / How you gonna have a dream come true?"]. This is a title I know only from crossword clues.
  • 16A. An INSURANCE POLCY is [Something that may cover a house] besides shingles.
  • 21A. ESS is clued as a suffix, [Count concluder?]. Meh.
  • 22A. FIDELIO is the [Opera that includes the "Prisoners' Chorus"]. Who doesn't love performing prisoners? The Filipino prisoners in orange jumpsuits doing the "Thriller" dance en masse is terrific.
  • 34A. Trivia! [Its maiden flight carried its country's president home] clues EL AL.
  • 35A. A [Pitcher's ploy] is an INTENTIONAL WALK.
  • 52A. DIANE [Chambers in a bar] was Shelley Long's character in Cheers. "Chambers" is a surname here, not a regular noun.
  • 55A. Does anyone like INSPECTOR JAVERT? He's Hugo's [Literary character played in film by Charles Laughton, Anthony Perkins and Geoffrey Rush].
  • 1D. [1962 World Cup host], 5 letters? Gotta be ITALY, right? Sure, except that the answer's CHILE.
  • 5D. TYRE is an [Ancient city whose name means "rock." It's in Lebanon.
  • 7D. Don't recall seeing SANK IN in the grid before. If it [Registered] in your mind, it SANK IN.
  • 17D. To POLE VAULT is to [Try to clear the bar]. The pole vault is insane.
  • 24D. [Disc holder] is not a SLEEVE, no, sir. It's a STEREO. Whoops.
So, this is my favorite NYT puzzle so far this week. I wonder who's in store for us tomorrow.

Updated Friday morningL

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Hoax Folks"—Janie's review

GROANS. They're not only [Haunted house noises]. They're the sound of solvers everywhere in the presence of PUNS [Many Groucho Marx quips]. The day before yesterday, Randy Ross clued pun as [Something that may not be intended]. Patrick's theme fill today has four of 'em, and I can safely say every one was definitely intended. He's taken the first name of each of four celebs and adapted it to his purpose, changing said name into a synonym for "hoax." Besides the shameless constructor (whose AWEsome grid puts PUNS and GROANS in the same column), the guilty parties are:
  • 17A. SHAM NEILL [Deceptive "Jurassic Park" star?] Sam Neill celebrated a birthday this past Monday. (Because inquiring minds need to know, right?) What kind of WILE [Foxy maneuver] has he pulled off recently? Hmm. Just noticed how Sam/Sham reminds me of "Wooly Bully" singers Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs...
  • 26A. TRICK MORANIS [Deceptive "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" star?]. That Rick Moranis—he's a sneaky one all right. I like how COY [Slyly shy]—which might describe "Trick"—sits right below his new name.
  • 44A. FRAUD SERLING [Deceptive "The Twilight Zone" host?]. A clever play on the name Rod, Serling was famous for bringing us eerie stories (more than one featured a UFO [Sci-fi saucer]) that stretched the realm of possibility—though I wouldn't go so far as to call them fraudulent per se.
  • 59A. RUSE MARIE [Deceptive "The Dick Van Dyke Show" actress?] Here's the WRY [cleverly ironic] Rose Marie, everybody's favorite indispensable gal-Friday (on The DVD Show) with co-star Morey Amsterdam. And (in those pre-GEL days) that trademark bow in her hair. (A [Respectful bow], on the other hand, is a SALAAM...)

Did you know that a flock of QUAILs is a [...covey]? I didn't. But James (Inside the Actors' Studio) Lipton years ago wrote a book that has just such information. An Exaltation of Larks looks to be a word-lover's delight.

Although I'd read D'Artagnan in high school, I did not remember ATHOS as the [Oldest Musketeer]. But given that Porthos and Aramis have too many letters in their names anyway, it was not too difficult to figure this one out!

And another bit of new information for me was that GAFF is the word for a [Handled hook] such as fishermen use to land large fish, or telephone and electric line workers use as a climbing aid.

With all that I didn't know today, being able suss out such fill as LICENSES [Items in hunters' wallets], BIOLOGIC [Natural medical product, such a s serum] and SQUADRON [Military flight formation], and to make use of such gimmes as STYX [Hades river] or EACH [Every's partner] were [Beneficial surprises] GODSENDS for this solver.

And apropos of nothing else, when you [Make a meal of] something you FEED ON it. If you adhere to a [Vegetarian credo], however, you say "NO MEAT!"

Just got back from the gym and second breakfast (IHOP!), so it's late and there are many puzzles. Forgive the brevity.

Jack McInturff's Los Angeles Times crossword

Let me refer you to Rex's L.A. Crossword Confidential post for a deeper look at today's puzzle. Here's what I said over there in the comments:

I liked the theme better than Rex did. Yep, it was no more than Wednesday difficulty, tops. Liked the intersection of ATHEIST (though I rebut the accuracy of the saying referenced in the clue) of DEISM. Kinda dug the overall European vibe, with German GRAF crossing GRAZ; Italian San REMO and ROME (anagrams!), a Roman road ITER (though ROME + [Roman road] shouldn't be in the same puzzle), and Il DUCE; Ukraine KIEV; and French PIAF.

There was an ALLIS-Chalmers plant a couple miles from where I grew up; my friend's dad worked there 'til he got laid off in the trendy Destruction of American Manufacturing Capacity that picked up speed in the '80s.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Friday"

Yay! A double-themeless week from Brendan! As he notes in his blog post, he broke the rule that limits themelesses to 72 words because an extra pair of black squares provided better fill. Hey, I'm OK with that. A boring themeless with 74 words is not worth it, but this one was pretty good. Favorite answer: TEACHABLE MOMENT, or [Skip Gates incident, e.g.]. Terrific entry, that. Plus JIM PALMER of underwear fame crossing the Beatles' LET IT BE, an exclamatory "YOU WHAT?!?", the WAZOO clued as [Anus] (slangily!), KLEENEX—the runners-up to TEACHABLE MOMENT.

Also nice: The satiny-smooth triple-stacked 15s in the middle are crossed by seven answers of 7 to 9 letters for some lovely interlock.

Upper right corner damn near killed me. I couldn't get anything in it for the longest time and then things finally started to emerge and boom, it's done, and there wasn't anything in it that was unfair. I do like a crossword that makes me feel like I really used my brain.

Daniel Rowe's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Queue & A"

I thought this might be a debut puzzle so I Googled Daniel Rowe's name and found via his Twitter feed that (a) this is indeed his debut and (b) today is his birthday. So, happy birthday and congrats!

The theme takes eight two-word phrases in which the first word can also be synonymous with "series" or "queue," inserts OF between the words, and clues the resulting phrases by way of the series of [second word] things. Like so: 56A is [Kidney, jelly, coffee], a STRING OF BEANS, and string beans is a familiar term. List servers handle those e-mail subscription discussion groups, and a LIST OF SERVERS is [Acolyte, tennis player, waiter]. I kinda like the all-names BLOCK OF BUSTERS, [Brown, Crabbe, Keaton]. And so it goes.

In the fill, highlights include GYM RAT, GROUCHO, LUNCHTIME, and RUNNER-UP. Favorite clue: [Language that gave us "berserk"] for NORSE. That one's my favorite because, well, etymology rocks, plus there's a cashier at my local Walgreens who is overly chatty with customers and once told me he was a berserker.